What Is Progressive Overload and How Will It Take Your Training to The Next Level?

 The human body is absolutely incredible. It repairs itself, fights off infections, regenerates cells, and sends signals to the brain when it needs rest or nourishment. The body has two primary goals: to keep us alive and safe. And hey, it works hard to ensure those needs are met, so I’m not throwing any shade. But beyond making sure that we don’t fall off cliffs or starve to death, our bodies are pretty lazy and it’s not their fault. Create a mind and body connection through strength training: it’s the key to getting stronger. If you’re slaving away in the gym week after week but don’t seem to be gaining strength, it may be time to make sure progressive overload is programmed your routine. 


What is Progressive Overload?

Simply put, progressive overload is the principle of adding a progression of difficulty in your training. The concept came to life in World War II when an army physician named Dr. Thomas L. DeLorme began experimenting with a new rehabilitation technique after military hospitals became flooded with soldiers who sustained orthopedic injuries. He had his patients perform 3 sets of 10 reps, each progressing in weight. His program was so successful that it became the benchmark in physical training standards and paved the way for strength training as we know it today. 

In order to get the body to change, you have to force it out of its comfort zone. Remember, all it cares about is making sure you are alive and safe. When you apply the principle of progressive overload, you essentially place new demands on your body and force it to adapt. In the beginning, this can be merely adding weight to your reps like Dr. DeLorme did for his patients. However, as you grow stronger, you need to find creative ways to continue making gains. 


Before You Overload


Knowing when to add progressive overload training to your routine is perhaps the most essential part of it all. Too soon, and you risk injury. Too late, and you may spend weeks in a plateau rather than working toward your goals. 

First, you need to master the movement patterns. If you’re lifting 125 lbs. but you don’t have proper form, you won’t see any improvement in your strength and run a high risk of getting hurt. This is your body, and these are your gains, so take the time to get it right. Once you have the motion down properly, you can start adding heavier weight (depending on the exercise, in 5 lb. increments.) There is no one-size-fits-all here, which is why it is beneficial to work with a professional trainer who can guide you on what to add and when to add it. Sometimes you will only need to work in that weight range for a week, and other times it could take a month or longer to master it before adding more weight. 

Once you’re lifting efficiently, you can start adding other variables of progressive overload training that go beyond increasing your weight load’s heaviness. 


Applying Progressive Overload Training


When you have the fundamentals down and ready to up your game, applying this simple concept to your training will take you to the next level. Here are a couple ways to increase your training intensity that go beyond taking on more weight or adding reps:

    • Increase your range of motion. For example, rather than basic goblet squats, try doing a 1 1/2 squat where you go all the way down, then half up, back down, and all the way up again as one rep. 
  • Change the tempo. Playing with the speed in which you perform a movement can be a great way to build strength. You can go down for a lunge in a controlled three seconds and then come up in three seconds. 

These simple yet effective changes to your routine increase your muscle’s demands, connect the body to the brain, and ultimately bring more strength, endurance, and muscle gain. 

Ditch the Plateau 


Use different variables in your training to get stronger. You’ll avoid long plateau periods and progressive overload is a proven method to continue making progress. If this all feels overwhelming, that’s what I’m here for. As a NASM-certified trainer, I will take the guessing out of your fitness and help you push past your boundaries for a total physical and mental transformation. If you are ready to take your training to the next level, contact Body Bloom today to schedule a consultation. 


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